As the warmth of summer approaches, many more delicious plants make their appearance Up North. Cattails, with corn dog–shaped flowers, grow ubiquitously throughout our swamps and shorelines. While every part of the plant is edible, the young shoots provide the easiest and most delicious snack. Similar to the young bamboo shoots I harvested in Japan, their crisp texture and soft taste work perfectly in tempura.
Like delectable desserts after a hearty meal, berries appear in our woods in early summer, and what could be more special than our wild blueberries? Their sweet and pungent flavor is something I crave every time I leave Northern Michigan. Many people use them in jams, sauces or even alcoholic infusions. Few places celebrate wild blueberries better than the U.P.—at Paradise’s annual Wild Blueberry Festival, blueberries hold center stage. The small berries became a staple of the local economy during the Great Depression, and today, with the tourism the festival attracts, they’re just as important.
Our region is truly special and, for better or worse, an increasingly desirable place to live. As traffic increases and our area’s cities and towns expand, our communities need these forays into the forest. There is nothing more healing to the individual or the group than food and nature. In the end, what represents local pride more than foraging?